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Family Beach Vacation Tips for a Fun-Filled & Mishap-Free Getaway

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What's not to love about a family beach vacation? There's the sand, the sun, and the sea! But there are also sunburns, unexpected rainy weather, and scary ocean waves. Here are six great family beach vacation tips to make sure your holiday is as fun-filled and mishap-free as possible.

Kids playing on beach

Beaches provide all sorts of nature play and fun for kids (Photo credit: altanaka,

1. Be wary of big waves.

Consider the size of the ocean waves before choosing your beach vacation destination. A strong undertow or large waves can be quite scary, no matter your age. Some locations, like Cabo san Lucas, even restrict entering the water due to dangerous waves at many of their beaches so make sure you choose a resort that allows water play. Surfing families will love the impressive waves of Oahu's North Shore, California's Huntington Beach, and Costa Rica's Playa Grande. When traveling with young children, however, be sure to choose a beach with manageable waves. Bay or cove beaches typically offer mellow waves and shallow water, perfect for little ones.

Beware of big waves on your family beach vacation

Beware of big waves on your family beach vacation (Photo credit: pwollinga,

2. Choose the best type of beach for your family.

You should also think about which type of beach surface will work best for your family. Shell and seaglass beaches can be a lot of fun for collectors, but might not be best for families who want to focus on swimming and sand play. Pebble beaches like those often found in the Mediterranean can be lovely, but will require water shoes and/or inflatable toys to protect sensitive feet. The same is true of boulder or rocky beaches, where the focus is often more on examining tide pools than on water play. Then there are sandy beaches, which are great for splashing, swimming, sports and sand play but might require more travel, depending on where you live.

Child playing on pebble beach

Is a pebble beach right for your family? (Photo credit: tan4ikk,

With thousands of beaches around the world, the options are seemingly endless. It's up to you to decide which destination meets your family's needs and budget best. Need help narrowing it down? Read our list of the best and most diverse beaches in California, or this list of the best beaches for families in the USA by TripAdvisor.

Beautiful sandy beach

A sandy beach is a great choice for families with kids of all ages (Photo credit: Iakov,

3. Pack the right beach toys.

I used to buy elaborate beach toys while on vacation so my kids could scoop, sieve and build with sand during our holidays. Then I could never squeeze those colorful plastic goodies into my suitcase for the trip home. Sadly for my pocketbook and our planet, I'd leave them behind at our destination. I finally realized that children don't need a bunch of fancy doo-dads to have a ton of sandy fun. Instead, I pack one mini-sized beach toy set for each kid. They don't take up too much room in our luggage and they double as travel bath toys. Inflatable toys like a beach ball and a float ring are easy to squeeze into baggage as well.

Want to make a big splash at your hotel swimming pool or beach? Take a look at our picks for the best pool floats!

Children playing with a beach ball

An inflatable beach ball is tons of fun and doesn't take up much room in your luggage (Photo credit: Daxiao_Productions)

4. Apply sunscreen before and after reaching the beach.

You've packed up the beach bag with towels, toys, sun hats, snacks and sunscreen. But before you head out the door, be sure to slather the kids (and YOU!) with sunblock. Once you reach the beach, your kids will be antsy to jump in the water and it will be difficult to get them covered. Or, you might just plain forget this important step. Applying sun protection beforehand wards off burns. Be sure to reapply often throughout the day too, especially after swimming in the pool or ocean.

Apply sunscreen throughout the day at the beach

Apply sunscreen throughout the day (Photo credit: shalamov,

5. Drink lots of water and other hydrating beverages.

Staying hydrated is especially important when visiting warm climates and participating in activities like swimming, surfing, or beach volleyball. Stock up on bottled waters, coconut water, or drinks infused with electrolytes. Bring them along on your beach excursion and make sure kids take breaks periodically to refuel.

As for mom and dad, piña coladas and beach-side beers are tempting, but they are dehydrating, too. If you want to indulge in an adult beverage by the sea, then be sure to rehydrate afterwards. You should probably limit your alcohol intake as well.

Mom and daughter drinking coconut water on the beach

Potassium-rich coconut water provides great hydration (Photo credit: odua,

6. Scope out fun away from the beach.

Even if your beach vacation destination is usually sunny and warm, inclement weather can strike anytime. Check the weather forecast the week before your departure and pack accordingly if rain is expected. Even if clear skies are in the forecast, I suggest bringing along a couple of travel games for kids to entertain the family in case of unexpected stormy weather.

Before leaving home, you might also want to scope out other activities at your destination in case a sunburn, beach boredom, or bad weather strikes. Knowing where to go to play indoors will come in handy in case fair weather gods do not shine upon your holiday. Explore options like nearby museums, aquariums, shopping malls, movie theaters, and bowling alleys.

Storm rolling in at the beach

Don't let stormy weather ruin your family's beach holiday (Photo credit: kreativepics,

Save these family beach vacation tips!

Dreaming of a beach vacation with kids? Be sure to save these family beach vacation tips for future reference. Simply pin the image below to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Family Beach Vacation Tips

If you liked this story, then you'll love our list of the 10 best beach hotels for families!

Do you have any questions or additional beach travel tips for kids? Let us know in the comments below!

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin, MBA, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular travel blog, She is an expert in travel with kids and without. As the author of the book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents how to make the most of traveling with babies and children. Colleen loves sharing tips on hotels, cruises, spas, theme parks, and global lifestyle topics. When she is not traveling the world, she lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Great tips! My number one is never, ever, ever turn your back on the sea!

  2. Debi Daugherty says

    I would plan on crafts when bad bad weather strikes, you can always make something with the shells you have collected. Also go to the beach early and come in out of the heat of the day where ever you are, you can always go back out latter.

  3. best solution for sunscreen from toddlers to teens is to wear UV swimwear, available in great colours and prints, easy to dry and no risk of sun burn with long term damage.

  4. Beach Party Games says

    Agree! sunblock is a must-have item to wear when going for beach trip not only for adults but for kids too.

  5. I agree with your tip about applying sunscreen before you arrive. It’s so much easier. I’m usually not a fan of spray sunscreen because it’s expensive and can discolor clothing, but it’s worth it for the beach. It’s no fun rubbing sunscreen on kids who are covered in sand.

  6. Fab list of family beach holiday tips! As many families are dreaming about and booking their winter beach holidays, these are great travel planning reminders.

  7. Jay@TravelIdeaz says

    Takes me back to childhood. It’s been a while since I’ve done these things or even get to the beach. It’s been way too long. I got to start making some plans. 🙂

  8. claudia Laroye says

    Great tips! We swear by SPF-factor sunshirts for our boys, especially in the water, where they spend most of their time. Waterproof sunscreeen just doesn’t last for the amount of time necessary to protect them, and the sunshirts have literally saved their skin on many a beach holiday over the years.

  9. Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque) says

    Scope out bathrooms—especially if you’re in the process of toilet training. If there are several adults, Take turns with each having a time period to be the super vigilant one. Little–or even not so little–kids can easily wander off and on a crowded beach, and all the the blankets and chairs can look very alike. (I got lost on a beach when I was 12. I knew how to get back to our hotel,
    but the undertow had pushed me down the beach and I couldn’t find my family. I went back to our room. My parents had a very bad day.) Even if you’re at a life guarded beach, with kids under 12, I don’t think you want to be depending on the 17 year old lifeguard to be keeping a sufficient eye on your 6 year old.

  10. Sally@Toddlers on Tour says

    Great tips Colleen.
    Living in Australia it is must that we not forget to take shade: umbrella or shade tent.
    We also take fresh fruit for snacks as you get hungry playing the water and the fruit is so refreshing after being in the hot sun.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Good idea, Sally! We bring our own umbrella when heading to the beach in our hometown of San Diego but there are often umbrellas for rent (or for free) at hotel/resort beaches too.

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